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Assisting Your Struggling Student

Assisting Your Struggling Student

For parents it is hard to watch a child struggle academically regardless of their age. It can be perplexing and frustrating to all involved. But, no one should feel hopeless. There are ways to stay involved and resources available to ensure that they succeed.

Parent Cheerleaders

Children develop their attitudes and beliefs in their abilities from their parents. A constructive attitude is contagious. Heather Tate, a private tutor and college English instructor from Guntown, states, “Parents should be careful how they talk about school and homework in front of the child. If the parent makes statements like, ‘This is pointless’; ‘You won’t ever use this again’; or ‘I never was good at this subject’ then it will not be surprising when the child takes on a similar attitude.”

Creating a positive environment towards learning and school starts at home and parents make the best cheerleaders. Elementary teacher Mary Kathryn Barham says, “Positive reinforcement and motivation is important. No matter what, you should always tell them they can do it. Confidence should be first. I can’t stress that enough because it really works.” To demonstrate this point, she referenced the story of Thomas Edison whose teacher sent a note home to his mother exclaiming he was mentally ill and for him not to return to school. The mother reacted by telling her son that it stated that he was a genius and that the teachers were not intelligent enough to teach him. She elected to home school him. The rest of the story is history, as he became one of the greatest inventors of the century.

At Home Support

Although a family’s schedule is hectic, it is important to reinforce what is being taught in school at home. Local speech-language pathologist Jolie Reid encourages setting aside study time even if there is no homework where the parent and child can sit down together in a calm environment and concentrate together, not rushed before bedtime or in the morning.

But learning at home doesn’t just mean homework. Teacher and parent Corrie Martin advises to involve children in real life situations such as helping at the grocery store, bank, or cooking dinner. She stresses the importance of engaging children in conversations and having them explain their reasoning. “Ask questions. Ask a child to explain how he or she is solving a problem. Don’t just give the answer. Ask guiding questions such as, ‘What makes you say that?’ as it will give incredible insight.”

Educators can’t stress enough the importance of reading to children. Reading aloud is widely recognized as the single most important activity leading to language development. It helps children acquire early language skills, develop positive associations with books and reading, and builds a stronger foundation for school success. Leslie Afton of Tupelo says that although they have plenty of books at home, she takes her children to the Lee County Library once a week to pick out books to read before bedtime. It is an activity that they look forward to each week that she hopes will inspire a lasting love and excitement about reading. She also takes them to area story times for the benefits of hearing another adult read out loud and exposing them to a wide variety of authors and writing styles.

Parents are their Child’s Best Advocate

If a parent has concerns about their child’s progress or school experience, they need to speak up. Parents are often times their child’s best advocate when it comes to education. They know their children better than anyone else. Connecting with educators on a regular basis will help a child feel supported as they see parents and teachers working together to help them. Attending teacher-parent meetings is a great opportunity to discuss strategies to help children do their best in class. But, know parents can request meetings with teachers or school administrators any time during the year and not just when the school has them scheduled.

Reading Rocket, a national multimedia literacy initiative, advises, “If you suspect a problem, talk with your child’s teacher. If you still have concerns, talk with the principal, reading specialist, or special education teacher. You have the right to ask questions and to receive answers to the questions you ask. Also, do not hesitate to seek advice outside of the school system.”

Additional Academic Assistance

Everyone does not learn the same way everyone else does, but they can learn their own way whether it’s remembering things with a silly rhyme or acronym or thinking of some memory that they can relate it to. Sometimes additional assistance may be beneficial as a new way to approach the material. Educators and administrators can help point parents in the correct direction to find additional assistance for their children.

The Learning Skills Center, a non-profit agency in Tupelo, provides a positive, nurturing environment for students of all abilities, backgrounds, and ages. They provide many services to help children learn, stay in school and prepare for college. Toni Bew, with the Learning Skills Center, says, “We strive to motivate individuals to understand the importance of learning as the foundation of accomplishment.” Services are provided to each student on a sliding pay scale, based upon the income level of the student’s family.

The New Albany School District, along with Shannon High School, as well as other schools in Northeast Mississippi, participates in the federally-funded 21st Century Program. The program involves enrichment activities before and after school, and during part of the summer that provides students with tutorial help based on specific needs and areas where they are not academically as strong as they need to be.

Additional Resources:

  • Khan Academy, an online resource, offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom.
  • A Dyslexia Support Group meets at 6:30pm the second Tuesday of the month at the Lee County Library (219 North Madison Street, Tupelo).
  • has a wealth of resources to help you advocate for your child at school, including parent-teacher conference worksheets, tips on preparing your child for testing, how to help your child get emotional support at school, and much more.
  • Check on your child’s school website as many have links to online educational tools to enhance your child’s learning experience.
  • A story time group meets at All Saints’ Episcopal Church (608 West Jefferson Street, Tupelo) on Fridays at 1:00pm. It is free to attend and includes reading, crafts, and a snack. They also take fun educational field trips. For more information check out the Facebook group “Lee County Children’s Literacy.” Additional story times in the Tupelo area are Thursdays at 10:00am at the Lee County Library (219 North Madison Street, Tupelo) as well as at Barnes and Noble in The Mall at Barnes Crossing every Saturday at 3:00pm in the Children’s Department.


Kathryn Rhea resides in Tupelo with her husband, Harris, and two children, Clayton and Charles. Her oldest child in Kindergarten is currently struggling with phonics so while being her child’s biggest cheerleader she is finding early intervention assistance to help her succeed.

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